Rock The Playoff Bells

18 May

The worlds of hip-hop and basketball share many connections, from their deep inner-city roots to their ever-evolving fashion trends; the latter in particular is especially apparent as the postgame press conferences of young NBA stars today are filled with sartorial nods to the looks championed by artists like Jay-Z and Kanye West.

One big reason for the bond between basketball and hip-hop  is that the nature of the business for rappers and professional basketball players is similar, in that both entail a high-level of individual visibility and little room to hide from the spotlight.  NBA players go to work in tank tops and shorts, under the scrupulous eyes of HD cameras and thousands of fans armed with flashing smartphone cameras.  Hip-hop stars need to fill entire albums with rapid-fire bursts of intimate thoughts and personal revelations; there can be flashy beats and effects to draw listeners’ attention momentarily, but at the end of the day, any artist with staying power is going to be judged by what they can do when it’s just them and a mic.

The high degree of visibility that both professions entail can give their respective fans an impression of intimacy with the stars they follow.  This leads to an environment in which commentators, fans, bloggers, etc. can confidently dissect and analyze not just the stars’ performances in the studio/on the court, but also their personal qualities, and overall value as human beings.  It can seem relatively easy and common to be an expert on the comprehensive personal histories of hip-hop stars and NBA players.

On a less in-depth and self-serious note, hip-hop and the NBA also shared something else this week – headlines.  The second round of the NBA playoffs is now in full-swing, and off-court storylines from Miami and L.A. are adding to the drama on the court.  With lesser general fanfare but still drawing attention, this year’s lineup of the traveling hip-hop festival Rock The Bells was also released this week.  And so, in light of the ‘everyone’s an expert’ syndrome discussed previously, we seized upon these two news items as a means to analyze stars from both worlds further.  We decided to take a look at the remaining NBA playoff teams and find their musical matches on the 2012 Rock The Bells Lineup.

Eastern Conference

Celtics – Nas

The core Celtics – Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo – had enormous success in their first year together, going all the way to the title in 2008.  Ever since then, they’ve generally remained one of the elite teams in the league but have never been able to reach another title; the rival Lakers have won two in that same period.  Because of their frustrations since 2008, the legacy of this particular Celtics team is unclear – they haven’t been legendarily great, but they have still been feared and respected.  Their run in this year’s playoff will go a long way to determining their overall place in the NBA’s Great Teams hierarchy.

Nas has a similar legacy issue with the hip-hop game – he burst onto the scene with the all-time classic Illmatic in 1994, but followed that with several years of inconsistent musical output.  His artistic reputation recovered greatly with Stillmatic and God’s Son in the early 2000’s, and ever since, Nas has generally been regarded as someone with a vital place in hip-hop’s history, but who never totally seemed to have the all-time great career that seemed possible after Illmatic.  Regardless – like the 2012 Celtics, he’s still respected in the game and a formidable presence when he’s at 100%.

76ers – Tyga

The 76ers are not a bad team, but they are a pretty young team that has a lot of room to grow.  They most definitely are not a serious title contender, and it can be pretty safe to say that were it not for a highly unfortunate Derrick Rose ACL tear, they wouldn’t even be in the second round.  So it’s pretty easy to label Philly as the ‘just happy to be here’ young team, and that’s even before their coach Doug Collins appeared to slyly concede the series to Boston in his Game 3 post-season comments.

In the hip-hop world, Tyga enjoyed a breakout hit several months ago with the catchy “Rack City,” and has been riding that song’s popularity ever since.  It’s too early to call him a one-hit wonder, but when it comes to being near the top of the Rock The Bells lineup poster, he’s definitely ‘just happy to be here.’

Heat – Method Man & Redman

Method Man and Redman are pairing up to perform their album Blackout, and are generally considered one of the bigger names on the RTB lineup this year.  These two don’t have the same worldwide recognition as LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, but the dynamics of the Heat duo so far in these playoffs have some similarities with the Brick City duo.  There is definitely a disparity in the prestige/popularity level between Meth and Red – Meth has his classic material with Wu-Tang, and with his various acting gigs over the years, has definitely remained the most well-respected of the two.  Red has his appeal, to be sure, but he is not on the same level as Meth at this point.

This can translate to LeBron and Wade, but with a bit of a caveat – which one of them will be Meth, and which one will fall back to being Red, on any given night?  That is the essential drama at the center of the Heat now that Chris Bosh is out, and it is still unclear which of these two remaining stars will rise up and take control of each new game.  D-Wade was definitely the Redman of Game 3, with his paltry stat line and in-game petulance, and it is yet to be seen if he will retain that title going forward.  It is also yet to be seen if Bron Bron and D-Wade will continue to share another similarity with Meth and Red – as individuals, there has been some great successes (Wade won a title, LeBron won multiple MVPs, Meth has Wu tracks like “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man”) but when combined, the output has been less than stellar (the Heat choking in last year’s Finals, How High).  Will a ’12 Title Run change that?

Pacers – Dipset

It’s been repeated nonstop by commentators for weeks, but bears repeating: the Pacers are a team without one true star, and have relied on their great teamwork to get to the level they’re at today.  Without a true superstar, the Pacers are made up of several smaller-wattage stars – great players who just aren’t all-out global names like LeBron or Carmelo.  Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, and David West are all essential to the Pacers continued success, but they aren’t that well-known outside of Indiana and NBA fan circles.  Together, however, they’re taking on the Heat with some nasty confidence, and at the moment, look like the team with the upper hand.

Holding another spot high on the RTB lineup, Dipset are like the Pacers of the hip-hop world in several ways.  Dipset is stocked with some good-to-great rappers, with Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, and Cam’ron, but it would be hard to say any of those guys have had superstar careers on their own.  Cam’ron and Juelz came the closest, but they’re much more respected and loved in their native NYC and in true hip-hop fan circles, and not so much on the mass-market scale.  When all put together, the crew has an impressive arsenal of group and solo cuts to bust out at their discretion, and are a personal favorite here at Dan Swanky’s.  Much like the Pacers and the ’12 Playoffs, Dipset could take this year’s RTB by storm.

Rocking the Western Conference Bells coming soon….


One Response to “Rock The Playoff Bells”


  1. Rock The Playoff Bells « Dan Swanky's - May 19, 2012

    […] After covering the remaining playoff teams from the NBA’s Eastern Conference, it’s now time to take a look at the Western Conference’s final four contenders and understand them better with some help from the 2012 lineup of hip-hop music festival Rock The Bells.  [Catch up on the Eastern Conference here.] […]

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